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  • Writer's pictureJames Gollinger

Questions from Constituents #1

I've been getting many e-mails from the people of Guelph who are interested in the School Board election and what I stand for. In Questions from Constituents, I'll share what people are asking (with their permission) as well as where I stand (in red).

  1. What do you believe are the most current pressing issues regarding student well-being and academic success? ​The first thing we need to do is to assess the impacts of the responses to Covid-19 over the last few years. Once we have an idea of how students have been affected, we can put strategies in place to return to our previous standard of education, as well as creating plans and policies to handle any similar disruptions that may occur in the future.

  2. What would you like to see implemented within the schools to best assist students with learning challenges i.e. ADHD, Autism? ​While there are common challenges facing students with identified learning challenges, such as ADHD and Autism, each student is unique and no one is better equipped to support them than their parents. I would like to see schools serving parents as clients in education by offering tools and working with parents and students to create individual learning plans based on individual student needs.

  3. What would you like to see implemented within the schools to best assist students with mental health concerns? ​While mental health is ultimately the responsibility of our health care system, I think our schools have an opportunity to provide healthy environments for students as well. I would like to encourage science-based habits that support mental health, such as physical exercise and healthy eating, as well as using education to help our students build resilience by, for example, providing an understanding of human psychology and the effects of social media on mental health. I also want to make sure students appreciate how important they are to our future and how badly we need them to reach their potentials.

  4. What do you most hope to accomplish as a school board trustee should you be elected? ​If I can accomplish one thing, it would be to create a school culture where parents are central to the education process. I would like to see parents not only at School Council meetings and events, but as volunteers and workers in the schools; from lunch supervisors, to helping with the snack programs, to working in the classrooms by bringing their personal expertise as citizens of our country to the citizens of our future.

  5. There has been much attention paid recently within the media regarding an Oakville transgender teacher and complaints regarding their choice of gender expression. Do you think the response of the school and the board was appropriate in this case? If not, what do you think would have been an appropriate response? ​My understanding of this issue is that the teacher in question was recorded demonstrating the use of potentially dangerous machinery while not observing proper safety precautions. Since 2012, the Ontario Education Act has protected the Gender Expressions of staff and students from discrimination and so, regardless of my personal feelings on the way they choose to express their "gender", I cannot comment on their personal attire. However, I am quite concerned that they have acted in a physically unsafe manner, have improperly instructed students, and are being shielded from both disciplinary and corrective action by both the school and the board. I have reached out to both for comment and am waiting to hear back. I understand that the administrators concerned are in a difficult position but I think that they have a duty, as a public institution, to take a stance based on policy, rather than refusing to respond to parents and media. My position is that Gender Expression (which happens to be the only protected class that embodies actions, as opposed to characteristics) should not be prioritised over safety or providing quality education. My response would have been to instruct the teacher to properly secure long hair, loose clothing, and accessories when operating powered machinery in the future and, if that is not possible, remove them, while acknowledging that this teachers' appearance is protected by our provincial laws as they are currently written.

  6. Do you agree with this statement: A school board must place all students first when making any decision? ​While I agree that education for every student is our priority, I believe we have a responsibility to the parents or guardians of our students to provide them with important information, especially regarding the health or safety of their children.

  7. Do you believe the school should have the right to withhold information about a gender questioning child from the parents or guardians? ​No. Parents and guardians are ultimately responsible for their children and will continue to be so long after their children have graduated the school system. If staff feel that a student is at risk of imminent harm, due to how parents may react to a students' gender questioning or any other reason, they are required to contact Family and Children's Services. They should not be keeping secrets from parents that could affect the health and safety of their children.

  8. Do you support Critical Race Theory being taught in the schools? ​Critical Race Theory (CRT) is fairly new and incredibly complex (and confusing) political ideology that is misunderstood by many, including those who view the world through it's lens. As such, I don't think it is appropriate to teach it, in an academic sense, at any level below that of post-secondary. Since Critical Race "Theory" is not a falsifiable, scientific theory, but rather a subjective ideology (akin to Conservatism or Liberalism, Christianity or Islam) I do not think it is appropriate to use it as a tool for interpreting policy or providing education in a public system that needs to be inclusive of all cultures and opinions.

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